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From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development
generation of research aimed at understanding: (1) the modifiable mechanisms through which financial hardship and economic insecurity affect parenting behaviors, the emotional climate of the home, and parent mental health which, in turn, affect children's well-being; (2) the levels of earned income and features of work that are associated with improved outcomes for children and the processes that account for observed relations among income, work, and child development; and (3) differing patterns of association and causality between children 's circumstances and their well-being for children and families at varying initial levels of risk as defined by socioeconomic conditions, parent and child well-being, (health and developmental status), neighborhood conditions, and cultural factors.
Experimental investigations of the developmental effects of variations in child care quality, extending from center-based early intervention programs, which have been the focus of previous program evaluations, through the broader range of child care and early education programs available, which have rarely been assessed with experimental designs.
Although there is firm, experimental evidence that high-quality, comprehensive, center-based early intervention programs can shift the odds in favor of more positive short- and long-term developmental outcomes for young children, and thereby produce a handsome social return on their investments, we lack comparable causal evidence on the developmental consequences of more typical child care arrangements, only some of which are center-based. Given the unlikely possibility that sufficient investments will ever be made to ensure access for all low-income children to programs that approach the magnitude and scope of the High/Scope Perry Preschool or Abecedarian projects, for example, policy makers need credible information about the potential impacts of lesser investments in program quality.
New research and secondary data analyses that integrate studies of parenting with evaluations of parenting interventions in order to advance understanding of what it takes to change parenting practices and what magnitude of change is required to produce positive (and enduring) changes in child developmental outcomes in a wide range of circumstances, both inside and outside the home.
The inconsistent and uneven evaluation literature on parenting interventions is a serious deterrent to sound policy making at a time when many governors and state legislators are proposing greater investments in such early childhood initiatives. At this stage in the maturation of the field, there is little justification for additional correlational studies of home visiting or parent education programs. Alternatively, there is a compelling need for rigorous evaluations that examine causal links between parenting interventions and specific parent (or parenting) outcomes and that assess mediated